Stress is a stressful false friend

Here is an interesting false friend for those trying to learn German. The English word stress has a number of different meanings. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the word is used for, for example, mental pressure (as in stress management), physical pressure (for example, a stress fracture), emphasis (the boss lays great stress on punctuality), and in the context of pronunciation (the stressed syllable is indicated by an apostrophe).

In contrast, the German language has different words for the above uses. Stress is exclusively used when referring to mental pressure and its consequences, see here. The corresponding engineering term in German is Spannung (hence there is no Stresstensor, but a Spannungstensor). Physical pressure that can lead to fractured bones etc. is called Belastung (the translation of stress fracture is Ermüdungsbruch). And finally, stress in the context of pronunciation is translated as Betonung.

An interesting example of a false friend derived from the word stress is the expression Stresstest, referring to a testing protocol for banks to detect the risk of a breakdown in financially unstable times. This false friend even has its own wikipedia entry.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s